Many readers would rather have a paperback book than a hardcover book when they travel or curl up with them. They also prefer to pay a little less for it. Only problem? The only problem is that you will have to wait for the paperback release. This can take a while if it is a bestseller. Some of the most amazing novels from 2021 can now be found in a more affordable and portable format — just as great as last year.
Golden Girl by Elin Hilderbrand
Queen of the Beach Read’s Nantucket set novel was a huge hit last summer. Famous beach-book writer (ha), Vivi Howe, is hit-and-run and killed while she was jogging. This causes chaos among her three grown children, as well as her friends, who want an explanation. Vivi is now in “the Beyond” where she is told by a Hermes scarf-wearing character, Martha, that she has three “nudges” that can affect the lives of all people on Earth. Vivi is pondering how to use the nudges while she watches her family with concern as they go about their summer days. Until an unexpected visitor threatens everyone’s peace.
Stephen King: Billy Summers
The King of Suspense’s weighty thriller is 528 pages long but well worth the effort. The story is about Billy Summers, a sharpshooting hitman who kills “bad guys”. But after accepting a high-paying job, he begins to wonder if the group or person orchestrating the hit might actually be the worst. He saves the life of a young girl and becomes a target. This is not King’s most famous novel. There’s no supernatural element to it, unlike many others. It is on the way to being adapted for television in a limited series. Fans of King have good news: Fairy Tale is his new book.
Beatriz Williams: Our Woman in Moscow
Williams, a beloved historical-fiction author (author of The Summer Wives among others), brings us an engaging story about twin American sisters whose paths diverge during World War II and then come together in dramatic fashion many years later. Ruth, a New York City model agency head, receives a mysterious postcard from Iris Digby her estranged sister. She’s married to a U.S. diplomat, and lives in Moscow. Ruth and a British counterintelligence officer set out together to pretend to be married (rather convincingly, Iris).
The Magician by Colm Tobibin
This absorbing story will appeal to literary lovers. The story follows Mann’s childhood, rise to prominence in Germany with Buddenbrooks, his initial complacency, then growing alarm when the Nazis take control, marriage to Katia, despite his attraction for young men, and his eventual emigration to America. Each of Mann’s family members has their own struggles that are vividly brought to life. Other notable novels by the Irish Toibin include Brooklyn, a 2009 novel that was made into a film starring Saoirse Roan in 2015.
The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz
The novel is a page-turner from the author of 2014’s You Should have Known (called The Undoing by HBO in the recent HBO version) and centers on Jacob Bonner, a professor of writing, who receives a brilliant story idea from a student. Jake takes the story and makes it his own after the student passes away. This has serious consequences.
Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan
This captivating novel takes place on a suburban street that literally and metaphorically falls apart during a hot summer. A sinkhole then opens up, spewing a black slurry. A girl is thrown in by a woman who has been in a relationship with her father. It is both riveting suspenseful and brilliant social commentary.
Robert Jones Jr., The Prophets
The beautifully written debut novel is a love story about two enslaved men named Samuel and Isaiah. Their devotion leads to problems on a Mississippi plantation. Toni Morrison weaves voices of their African ancestors throughout the book. A complex mix of characters includes an older enslaved man Amos who adopts Christianity of the plantation owner and becomes a preacher. This draws attention and tension to the relationship between the men.
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
A sprawling epic featuring brilliantly drawn characters from Shipstead, author of 2014’s Astonish Me, is about Marian Graves. Her story begins with her near drowning at sea along with her twin brother Jaimie. While growing up in Prohibition-era Montana as an aspiring pilot, her life was no less exciting. She worked as a bootlegger to save money for flying lessons. She’s a legendary pilot who is now being filmed in Los Angeles today. The book then jumps to the filming of her role and the young actress she plays.
We Begin at The End by Chris Whitaker
The story of an awful accident that occurred in a California small town results in the death and imprisonment of a young boy. The story tells the tale of the 30 year aftermath, including at least one murder. It is borne out by Duchess Day Radley, a 13-year old girl, and her younger brother. Radley was raised by a single mother with a history of abuse and a police chief who has been consumed by the past. It will be developed by Disney’s 20th Television Studios for a television series.
Nathan Harris, The Sweetness of Water
It is hard to believe that this beautiful, moving novel, long-listed in the 2021 Booker Prize category, is a debut. The story is set in the American South after the Civil War. Enslaved people are still held back by racism and shackled in many other ways due to their traumatized pasts. George, a kind-hearted white man hires two brothers who are free to help him with his farm. The arrangement is not well received by the townpeople, who are drawn to George and his family. Tensions rise to a near-apocalyptic peak, and finally justice is served.